Peter Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations (3 stars)

Peter Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations

The Libertine's first album in seven years contains an unexpected gem

As years go, 2016's had the sort of news cycle that makes otherwise rational people reach for the Yellow Pages and start looking for the nearest fallout shelter. But sometimes, a song from an unexpected quarter comes along and makes some sense out of our messy world. Peter 'Pete' Doherty's latest album – his first in seven years – contains one of those crystallising moments. If it weren't for the track 'Hell to Pay at the Gates of Heaven', the Hamburg Demonstrations would probably only be of interest to Libertines superfans – but that one song is worth the cover price of the whole album by itself.

Amid a bittersweet re-recording of Amy Winehouse tribute 'Flags from the Old Regime' and melancholy lead single 'I Don't Love Anyone (But You're Not Just Anyone)', it's a surprisingly sharp take on a story that has seemed to defy all but the most sober artistic interpretations.

Written in the wake of last year's Paris terror attacks, it finds Doherty unnervingly upbeat while exploring the appeal of terror groups like ISIS to kids who, 20 years previous, might have taken up guitars in the name of John Lennon or Sid Vicious rather than arms in the name of religion.

Doherty's acoustic meanderings and fondness for vintage equipment seem a bit quaint in comparison with viral millenarian propaganda, but I challenge you to find a song that manages to tackle the subject with as much dexterity as he exhibits here. It's laconic chorus lines like 'Come on boys, choose your weapons/J45 or AK47?' (the Gibson J45 was Lennon's favourite acoustic guitar) that serve as a reminder that Doherty – once hailed as the next great talent in British music – is still a bloody good writer.

Hamburg Demonstrationsu is out on Fri 2 Dec on BMG/Clouds Hill Recordings.

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